July 10, 2008

In Today's Issue:

European Commission Proposes School Snack Program at €90 Million Per Year
Yesterday, the European Commission proposed a European Union-wide fresh fruit and vegetable school snack program. Under the proposal, €90 million euros a year ($141 million dollars) would pay for the purchase and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools.  This money would be matched by national funds in those Member States that chose to implement the program. This is the latest step in the Commission's efforts to improve health and nutrition, as set out in the 'Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and Related Health Issues,' which aims to encourage good eating habits in young people. United Fresh, together with colleagues at Freshfel in Brussels and public health organizations in Europe, played a leadership role in advocating for these funds with the EU’s DG AGRI (Agriculture and Rural Development). Since April of 2007, when United Fresh Vice President of Health & Nutrition Dr. Lorelei DiSogra participated in a briefing at the European Parliament, United Fresh has been consulting with DG AGRI for the last year.  Lorelei will be actively involved in a School Fruit Scheme Conference at the EU planned for December 2008. “All of us are very excited that the European Commission approved this proposal last night. This funding commitment aligns agriculture policy with public health policy and acknowledges that school fresh fruit and vegetable snack programs are an effective global strategy to improve child health and reduce obesity,” said Lorelei. For more information please contact Lorelei at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org, 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

CDC, FDA Salmonella Outbreak Investigation
Based on CDC’s current investigation in the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak, FDA is now sampling and tracing back jalapeño and Serrano peppers, rather than just tomatoes. As mentioned in yesterday’s email, this announcement narrows the scope of the investigation. Both CDC and FDA have clearly said they are not advising industry to remove these products from menus because there is no proof that these products are at risk.  The bottom line is that CDC has not yet been able to clearly identify the food that is linked to the outbreak, so they are investigating the few products that appear in most, but not all, of the case studies that they are conducting.  While the investigation (and the frustration) continues, we are providing FDA with industry background/distribution information and encouraging investigators to conduct their investigation on jalapeño and Serrano peppers quickly and thoroughly so as to reach a conclusion one way or the other as to the possibility that they are involved in the outbreak.  If you have any additional questions, please contact Amy Philpott, VP of Marketing & Industry Relations, at aphilpott@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3400 ext. 425.

$10 Million in Funds Now Available for Block Grant Program
The implementation of Farm Bill programs has begun. On Wednesday, July 9, 2008 the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced the availability $10 million in specialty crop block grant funds. These funds, made available through the 2007 Farm Bill, must be obligated by September 30, 2008, the end of the 2007 fiscal year - applications for these block grant funds are due to USDA no later than September 8, 2008. The Federal Register notice, and information on where to send your grant application, can be found here. Specialty crop block grants provide funds to “enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.” Examples of past state block grant programs have included funds for pest and disease research, marketing promotions and food safety education. All agencies, commissions and state departments of agriculture are encouraged to apply and to include industry groups, academic institutions and community based organizations in the development of grant program applications. For more information, please contact United Fresh Senior Vice President, Public Policy Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400 or rguenther@unitedfresh.org.

United Fresh Speaks in Favor of School Meals That Include More Fresh Produce
Today the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on Nutrition Standards for School Lunch and Breakfast Programs hosted an Open Public Workshop to hear from public health advocates, the food industry and state/local health officials. This IOM Committee is charged with making recommendations to USDA on revising and updating school meals, so the IOM’s recommendations have the potential to significantly increase the amount and types of fruits and vegetables served in school lunch and breakfast programs, which reach 29 million and 11 million children respectively every school day. In her testimony, Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh’s vice president of health and nutrition, recommended that school lunch and breakfast meal standards be revised to include more fruits and vegetables; school meals include a wider variety of fruits and vegetables that kids like to eat and that will result in increased consumption; schools receive funds to cover the cost of serving more fresh fruits and vegetables and purchasing refrigerators and salad bar equipment; and that USDA’s commodity program reflect what schools are asking for and be used to purchase half of its fruits and vegetables for schools as fresh and expand the DOD Fresh Program. Currently, only 3 percent of the fruits and vegetables purchased by USDA are fresh. A special thanks to Rick Harris, Sunkist Growers and Diane Kurrle, US Apple Association, for their testimony supporting the need to increase fruits and vegetables in school meals. For more information, please contact Lorelei at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org, 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

Yakima Recall, Crisis Management Course Sells Out! LAX Course Added
The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation’s Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire course, August 26-28 in Yakima, Washington has once again sold out and we are now taking names for a wait list.  However, if you don’t want to risk being left out, we’ve added an additional course, October 1-3, 2008, to be held near the Los Angeles international airport for easy access. This will be the final course offered in 2008.  Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire is a multi-part course, including a two-day workshop on how to minimize your liability and prevent a product recall from becoming a crisis.  A half day of media training is offered separately.  For additional registration and housing information, please contact Beth Berman at bberman@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • S & H Packing & Sales, Gonzales, CA
  • USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Washington, DC
United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you.  For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman, joberman@unitedfresh.org

News and Views
Hospitals Looking to Buy Local Produce
The examiner.com reports that Maryland hospitals see value in buying local.

Scientists test method for sanitizing leafy produce
The Western Farm Press reports on tests done by USDA, ARS to determine new, more effective, ways to sanitize leafy greens.

U.S. Takes Steps to Combat Asian Gypsy Moth
Scientific American reports that China has agreed to allow U.S. scientists to inspect forests near shipping ports in attempt to safeguard U.S. agriculture from the Asian gypsy moth, a tree destroying organism.

New Jersey Selects Schools to Participate in Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program
NJ.com reports that New Jersey has selected its 25 schools to participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program for the 2008-2009 school year.

EU proposes Fund Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in Europe
Euractiv.com reports that EU proposes to allocate  €90 million of Community funding per year to help member states finance the distribution of free fruit and vegetables in schools as of autumn 2009.